Guilin – a stepping stone to better things
Our stopover in Guilin was only for one night, to book and arrange our Li River boat tickets (which we actually decided against – I’ll tell you more later) and arrange our transport to the Longji Rice Terraces.
We visited Guilin 11 years ago and it wasn’t a notable stopping point, and not much has changed this time either.
However, it’s worth a night stopover to see the sun and moon Pagodas and stroll the busy pedestrian area full of shops, restaurants and bars. You definitely notice the western feel about the place.
Getting to Guilin
We took our last overnight sleeper train to Guilin! These sleeper trains have been amazing, the boys have slept so well on them and they are more comfortable than you realise. So armed with noodles, snacks and drinks to last us all day and night we climbed aboard.
The only difference with this journey is that the sleeper train would be arriving in Guilin at 5.30am! Must set the alarm! As it happens, the train was in fact 40 minutes early and we had a knock at the door to wake us!
Very disorientated we scrambled together and disembarked.
Once we exited the train station we knew that we would have to get a taxi as we were too early for the local buses. It’s o.k though as we grabbed a taxi on the meter. However, the metre was set at a much higher rate and so the cost was much higher than we were expecting! Duped tired travellers again!!
Where to stay
There are a number of cheap sleeps/backpackers to stay in. We were in a lovely quiet area, not too far away from the Pedestrian shopping street. The hostel was called Ming Palace International Youth Hostel & was so nice.
The room was huge, with 2 large comfy beds and a nice bathroom area. There is no lift so be prepared to drag your bags a few floors! However, I did make use of their free laundry facilities, which was a bonus!
Downstairs is a nice, and reasonably priced restaurant which was convenient for breakfast and dinner prior to getting an early night!
They have a luggage store too, which I recommend using if you plan to visit the rice terraces.
Things to do
Sun and moon pagodas – a sunset photo opportunity. The lake is only small and very walkable with nice gardens surrounding it. On one side are 2 pagodas, moon and sun. They are lit up, as is the garden at night. It’s very beautiful and very busy.
While waiting for the night sky, we were accosted by a number of Chinese for photos with us and the kids. But the boys weren’t in the mood so we left daddy to stay and enjoy his photography in peace!
Longji Rice Terraces – rather than take a day trip we decided to stay overnight to get some sunset or sunrise pictures. It seems that unless you want a tour, these need to be done on the ground. I’ll post a separate picture of our amazing time here!
Li River Cruise – there are cruises that leave every morning that travel up the Li River to Yangshuo. You can either chose to stay in Yangshuo (a lively and vibrant town with lots of scenic areas – see separate blog post here) or you go as part of an organised tour and return by bus later in the day. The cruises are expensive and you become part of a trail moving down Li river. I’ll go into more detail in my other post.
Bamboo Rafting – if the chunky petrol boats chugging down Li River aren’t your thing then an alternative river cruise is bamboo rafting along Yulong river. It’s a much more relaxing affair as you are putted along the river and down some little. But this is much easier if you are based in Yangshuo.
Reed Flute Cave – after visiting Huashan Mysterious Grottoes we didn’t feel the need to visit more caves.
Shopping – the pedestrian street is massive and at night time it’s very loud and very busy! People are outside their shops with clackers and shouting, trying to get your attention! But if you do need something then this is the place to come. There’s lots of eateries as well as shops.
Where to go to eat
This should read, where isn’t there to go! There are restaurants and eateries everywhere. Lots of shopping malls with food outlets and the pedestrian street is filled with restaurants.
But I get the impression that Guilin is something of a party turn. Life doesn’t start until late morning/lunchtime and night times are very busy and bustling. But I could be wrong as night time venturing isn’t really on our agenda with the kids!
Guilin in itself remains, in my view, as a stopover for the Longji rice terraces and Yangshuo River cruises. If you are not planning to do either of these then I’d skip Guilin altogether. There are nicer places and cities to visit. However, I highly recommend the Longji rice terraces and have written a separate post for that reason!